Coupling of a Major Allergen to the Surface of Immune Cells for Use in Prophylactic Cell Therapy for the Prevention of IgE-Mediated Allergy

Konstantinos Mengrelis, Gerhard Niederacher, Lisa Prickler, Verena Kainz, Anna Marianne Weijler, Elisa Rudolph, Victoria Stanek, Julia Eckl-Dorna, Ulrike Baranyi, Andreas Spittler, Margarete Focke-Tejkl, Barbara Bohle, Rudolf Valenta, Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Becker, Thomas Wekerle, Birgit Linhart

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article


Up to a third of the world's population suffers from allergies, yet the effectiveness of available preventative measures remains, at large, poor. Consequently, the development of successful prophylactic strategies for the induction of tolerance against allergens is crucial. In proof-of-concept studies, our laboratory has previously shown that the transfer of autologous hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) or autologous B cells expressing a major grass pollen allergen, Phl p 5, induces robust tolerance in mice. However, eventual clinical translation would require safe allergen expression without the need for retroviral transduction. Therefore, we aimed to chemically couple Phl p 5 to the surface of leukocytes and tested their ability to induce tolerance. Phl p 5 was coupled by two separate techniques, either by 1-ethyl-3-(3-dimethylaminopropyl) carbodiimide (EDC) or by linkage via a lipophilic anchor, 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphoethanolamine-poly(ethylene glycol)-maleimide (DSPE-PEG-Mal). The effectiveness was assessed in fresh and cultured Phl p 5-coupled cells by flow cytometry, image cytometry, and immunofluorescence microscopy. Chemical coupling of Phl p 5 using EDC was robust but was followed by rapid apoptosis. DSPE-PEG-Mal-mediated linkage was also strong, but antigen levels declined due to antigen internalization. Cells coupled with Phl p 5 by either method were transferred into autologous mice. While administration of EDC-coupled splenocytes together with short course immunosuppression initially reduced Phl p 5-specific antibody levels to a moderate degree, both methods did not induce sustained tolerance towards Phl p 5 upon several subcutaneous immunizations with the allergen. Overall, our results demonstrate the successful chemical linkage of an allergen to leukocytes using two separate techniques, eliminating the risks of genetic modifications. More durable surface expression still needs to be achieved for use in prophylactic cell therapy protocols.

Original languageEnglish
Article number446
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 03 Mar 2024


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